Now that the youngest members of the Millennial generation - long a primary demographic focus for marketers -have entered the workforce, the next generation in our human continuum is coming of age.
We’re not just marketing to the “Me Generation” anymore - marketers meet Gen Z, the generation of tolerance and inclusion. And its oldest members are just now entering the workforce, Generation Z was born between approximately 1995 and 2010.
Millennials - aka Gen Y - have been around for long enough for brands to develop a thorough understanding of what drives their purchasing behaviors - but what about the next generation?
The outstanding attribute of Gen Z, the demographic cohort that directly follows Millennials, is that they're the first generation that has never known a world not teeming with technology. Gen Z has grown up entirely in an era of smartphones, tablets and social media. Alternate names for this group - iGeneration, Gen Tech, Gen Wii - acknowledge this defining trait.
If you're planning a marketing campaign aimed at this group, it’s important to know what separates them from previous demographic subsets. This means not only getting to know how they best like to communicate, and which channels of communication they prefer, but also the other subtle, yet key differences between Gen Z and Millennials that have to be acknowledged in planning an effective marketing strategy.
How Gen Z Differs From Millennials
There's been much discussion over the years about the characteristics of the Millennial or Me Generation, and what distinguishes them from their predecessors. Generation X, for example, were more known for their confidence and their love of experience over consumption - but in what ways does Generation Z most markedly differ from Millennials?
This is a crucial question for marketers to answer as Gen Z is poised to outnumber Millennials by the end of 2019. An in-depth understanding of the forces that drive this generation and its purchasing decisions is well worth knowing.
In general, there's an overarching theme of authenticity with this generation. Hallmarks include a need for individual expression, coupled with a bent toward “radical inclusion.” They're far more tolerant of individual differences and preferences than their predecessors - this difference in worldview is especially obvious in their attitudes about gender fluidity, but extend to just about every other characteristic or personal choice. Gen Z just wants you to do you.
Gen Z also makes friends both in-person and online, and tends to give each type of friendship equal weight. Imagine the implications of this for influencer marketing - this tendency explains why authentic interactions between Influencers and fans are so important these days, influencers are truly becoming more and more like friends. Gen Z is even more likely than Millennials to search for products and services via social media, and they seek out trusted sources to guide them in their process.
While Millennials - or Gen Y - famously prefer paying for experiences - like say, a trip to Machu Picchu - the more pragmatic Gen Z would rather have cool stuff in hand, where they can see it. In yet another nod to their pragmatism, Gen Z is also less likely to do freelance work than Gen Y, preferring steady full-time employment.
To help make sense of all the particulars about Gen Z, we’ve made a list of some of the most important traits to consider when marketing to this audience, along with relevant information about what they mean to you as a marketer.
4 Defining Characteristics of Gen Z and What They Mean for Marketers
1.They Prize Authenticity and Inclusiveness and Demand the Same of Their Favorite Influencers
Not only does Gen Z crave authenticity, but they value uniqueness, and are much more likely to embrace individual differences than previous generations.
This is why nano-influencers - influencers who are real people with followings of anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 -are more prized as information sources for Gen Z purchasing decisions than macro-influencers like Kendall Jenner or Zoe Sugg, who can sometimes get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sponsored post.
You cant pull the wool over the collective eyes of this generation - they aren’t so much loyal to brands as they expect brands to be loyal to them - as well as transparent in their communications. If you want Gen Z customers, you must first prove your worthiness to them.
This generation is all about credibility.
For this, you should consider seeking out nano-influencers whose communication style and visual identity aligns well with your brand message. In short, to appeal to this demographic, you’ll need to choose influencers who'll love your brand, whether they are incentivized or not, or Gen Z consumers will know - so no hidden agendas please.
Marketers can streamline their search for influencers using an influencer platform that helps to narrow down your search. Tools like Socialbook.io let you plug in search parameters, like brand mentions, so that you can find out what similar brands your influencer may have worked with, or their number of followers, so that you can more easily find multiple nano-influencers who are a fit for your campaigns.
2. They Have Shorter Attention Spans and Can Best Be Reached via Multiple Channels
Members of Gen Z prefer to get their information in small digestible bits, and also to accomplish different tasks via different channels. For example, 45% of them prefer to get information about new brands on Instagram, and they then prefer to research those products on YouTube.
When it comes time to buy, Gen Z is more likely than other generations to head to a 3-D brick-and-mortar store to make their actual purchase, after which they are the most likely generation to share about it afterwards via Snapchat.
There are a couple of takeaways here. One is that an omnichannel approach is essential when marketing to this demographic. Since smartphones are always with Gen Z’ers, the lines between in-store and online are blurred.
Another important takeaway is that since Gen Z relies so heavily on Instagram for brand discovery, selecting the best influencers to appeal to them - and to enthusiastically and authentically represent your brand - is crucial. Gen Z is 1.3x likelier to choose a product based on a recommendation by an influencer than a recommendation by a celebrity.
3. They Love a Cause
This generation loves to use its purchasing power as a vehicle for activism.
According to Social Impact Agency DoSomething Strategic, 76% of Gen Z’ers surveyed have bought a product to support issues supported by a brand, and 67% have either stopped buying a brand or would consider boycotting one if a company’s somehow clashed with their own.
Creating an initiative around a cause that you can get behind as a brand, and aligning your company with like-minded influencers, is a fantastic way to court business from cause-oriented Gen Z. Just bear in mind that authenticity is also very near to the heart of this generation, so be sure that your chosen cause and your brand mission are fully compatible.
4. They're Enthusiastic Content Creators and Sharers
Gen Z may not be near their full purchasing power yet, but they do love sharing what they like. They have a penchant for sharing content that they connect with for everyone in their networks to enjoy.
Creativity is also extremely important to this demographic. According to one study, 80% of Gen Z’ers surveyed said that discovering a personal creative identity is important to them. The same study revealed that more than 25% post original videos every week and 65% create and share content on social media.
Gen Z also tends to love how-to videos - those that showcase products and teach skills. Here, the native creativity of this group of consumers dovetails beautifully with their social media habits. Just think of the number of videos that might be created and shared featuring ways to use your product.
A Great Beginning
Gen Z’s coming of age marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship between marketers and this latest generation. The future of marketing to these fascinating folks promises to be more collaborative and mutually beneficial than anything we’ve seen in the past.
In this new era, brands will need to put integrity first, and more than ever before, to create campaigns that will get consumers in their corner by forming relationships anchored in respect for their customers.